Survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Ngoma District, Eastern Province, are relieved to finally see a suitable memorial site being installed in Rukumberi Sector.
For nearly two decades, they had to put up with the ruins of the current memorial site where more than 38,000 bodies of their loved ones, victims of the Genocide, are buried.
Ngoma District’s vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs, Providence Kirenga, on Monday told The New Times that construction work on a new and standard mass grave is on.
Rukumberi Memorial of over 38000 victims of Genocide against the Tutsi. Net photo.
For Callixte Kabandana, 46, a survivor from the area, just seeing that the project has started makes him happy. Rukumberi was selected for the memorial site due to its unique history .
“We are happy to see this memorial finally being given the attention it deserves. It is heartbreaking to see the place where your people are buried in a very sorry state. We have for so long wanted to see the remains of our people properly interred and the history of what happened here during the 1994 Genocide, and years before, in the 1950s, preserved,” Kabandana said.
“Words alone cannot express our happiness. It is important to preserve the history too. According to what I heard from our parents, in 1959, there were massive deportations of the Tutsi from other parts of the country to Bugesera and here. Tutsi families were brought here so that they could suffer as life here then was insupportable”.
Kabandana added that the current mass grave in Rukumberi was set up in 2001. But it was not up to standard as whenever it rained, water seeped into the grave and this was a constant cause of concern.
In 2005, he said, survivors made the first appeal to have the memorial worked on.
The ongoing first phase, Kirenga explained, is budgeted to cost nearly Rwf300 million with Rwf244 million going into the new mass grave alone.
“The first phase is of constructing a standard grave and this ends in March as we look to exhume and rebury the remains during the upcoming 100 days of commemoration of the Genocide.
”The second and final phase whose construction will be handled in next year’s budget, will contain the memorial site’s history section to educate and preserve the memory he said.
Plans to upgrade the memorial site were first mulled by survivors nearly two decades ago but have always been derailed by budget constraints and considering the fact that there were many other memorial sites that equally required attention.
Kirenga acknowledged the delay and noted that, among others, priority was first given to the memorial site in Kibungo District whose construction is now near completion.
“We first gave attention to Kibungo’s memorial site as it was also in a bad state,” Kirenga noted.
Fred Mufulukye, the Governor of the Eastern Province, said: “After 25 years, more than 40,000 bodies buried in the current grave are going to be given a decent home different from the one previously constructed during the emergency period.
Rukumberi is one of the areas that experienced unique atrocities during the Genocide. Targeted people were relocated there by the former regime with the intention of being killed by the poor living conditions and disease, including the African sleeping sickness caused by the tsetse flies.”